Skip to main content
/ Resources / Basic Terms

Basic Terms

UN meetings use rules to make sure everybody gets a chance to speak and everybody knows what is going on. Each council has a chair (or chairman or chairwoman) that is in charge. The chair is an expert in the rules, and you should respect what he says and decides.

Before you do anything else, you have to “make a motion” to talk about something. Someone else has to “second” the motion. Then, the Council can decide whether to do it or not. Once a motion has been made and seconded, then the council can talk about the motion or it can vote on the motion. Take a look at the chart on the back to see all the different motions you can make.

  • make a motion” This is a way of saying “Let’s do (something).” For example, “I ‘move‘ that we vote on the resolution” means “Let’s vote on the resolution now.”
  • second” means “I think that’s a good idea. Most motions need a second before the council can consider them.

If you want to stop using all these rules and just talk with people, you can move to have a caucus. A moderated caucus is like a classroom, where people raise their hands to speak and the chair calls on people to speak, but it doesn’t use rules. An unmoderated caucus is a time when everyone can get up and walk around and talk to whomever they want. Sometimes your chair will suggest this (or say it’s a bad idea)-listen to your chair.

Voting: a placard vote means everyone raises their placard (country sign), a roll call vote means that the chair calls each country in turn and you say yes, no, or abstain. Make sure you know what you are voting on! Sometimes it gets confusing.

There are several things that you can interrupt the speaker with. Be polite, though. These are called “points.”

  • Point of Order: if you think the rules are being broken, you can tell the chair with a point of order. You don’t need to be recognized, just raise your placard and say “point of order.”
  • Point of Inquiry: If you’re confused about the rules, just raise your placard and say point of inquiry to the chair and ask your question. This is generally not to be used as a question towards another member states position; just for question regarding parliamentary procedure. 
  • Point of Personal Privilege: If you have a personal issue, like the room is too cold, you can make a point of personal privilege and tell the chair something. Doing this once is okay if you really need to, but don’t do it more because it can annoy people.

In order to change a resolution once the council has voted to consider it, you have to “amend” it. An amendment to a resolution means a “modification” to the resolution. If you can get the original author of the resolution to agree, then it becomes a “friendly amendment” and it is easier to do.

If you want to get rid of a resolution or amendment, you can move to table the resolution. That means “let’s not talk about it any more.” Then someone has to propose a new topic or resolution.

When you’re ready to leave (for lunch or when you’re all done), you can “move to adjourn.” Adjourn means “finish the meeting.” If someone seconds the motion, then everyone votes on it immediately.